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What We Collect

by Warren Shuman (03/25/08).
Doctor Syntax Pursued By A Bull
Johnny Walker
Johnny Walker

I’ve been collecting antique and vintage cartoons since I was a teenager in the 1940s – with the Good Lord’s help, I will reach 81 years at end of May!

In my collection I now have about a dozen examples of early cartoons from England and the United States, as well as some modern ones. (I also have a small collection of Persian and Indian miniatures from 19th century manuscripts.)
Here are three of my favorites. Two are advertising cartoons for Johnny Walker Scotch whisky. What makes them so distinctive is that vintage Johnny Walker cartoons are extremely scarce. And, they represent the advertising history in the UK.

One of the cartoons shows a group of sophisticates socializing during the early 1920s, with the Johnny Walker character present in his familiar top hat and waistcoat. Their conversations are in “balloons.”

The other depicts the elegant showroom of an automobile agency, again featuring well-dressed gentry and Johnny Walker. Both cartoons include the legend, “Drawn and hand colored by the artist D. Zirheiser and dedicated with permission to John Walker, Esq., distiller of fine whisky, Kilmarnock, Scotland.”
The third cartoon is a hand-colored drawing of a 19th century character named Dr. Syntax, created by famous caricaturist Thomas Rowlandson of London. Dr Syntax was a long-chinned, knobby-kneed character who wore a white wig and a long black coat. His comic adventures were published in Poetical Magazine in 1809-1815 and became very popular. This cartoon shows a bull chasing Dr. Syntax up a tree! J&R Clews, the eminent Staffordshire potters, created a series of Dr. Syntax chinaware plates based on these amusing cartoons. These are greatly sought after by collectors, too.

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